Copper Yearning

Copper Yearning

by Kimberly Blaeser


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Copper Yearning invests itself in a compassionate dual vision—bearing witness to the lush beauty of our intricately woven environments and to the historical and contemporary perils that threaten them. Kimberly Blaeser’s fourth collection of poetry deftly reflects her Indigenous perspective and a global awareness. Through vividly rendered images, the poems dwell among watery geographies, alive to each natural nuance, alive also to the uncanny. Set in fishing boats, in dreams, in prisons, in memory, or in far flung countries like Bahrain, the pieces sing of mythic truths and of the poignant everyday injustices. But, whether resisting threats to effigy mounds or inhabiting the otherness of river otter, ultimately they voice a universal longing for a place of balance, a way of being in the world—for the ineffable.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781513645612
Publisher: Holy Cow! Press
Publication date: 11/05/2019
Pages: 158
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Kimberly Blaeser, poet, critic, essayist, and fiction writer, is a Professor at the University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee and a member of the low residency MFA faculty for the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe. She served as Wisconsin Poet Laureate for 2015-2016. Blaeser is Anishinaabe, an enrolled member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, and grew up on White Earth Reservation in northwestern Minnesota. Her collections of poetry include Apprenticed to Justice (2007), Absentee Indians and Other Poems (2002), and Trailing You (1994), which won the Native Writers' Circle of the Americas First Book Award. She is also the author of a critical study on fellow White Earth writer Gerald Vizenor, entitled Gerald Vizenor: Writing in the Oral Tradition (1996), and editor of the anthologies Traces in Blood, Bone & Stone: Contemporary Ojibwe Poetry (2006), and Stories Migrating Home: A Collection of Anishinaabe Prose (1999).

Blaeser’s poetry, short fiction, and creative nonfiction have been widely published, and selections of her poetry have been translated into several languages including Spanish, French, Norwegian, Indonesian, and Hungarian. Her writing is included in more than forty anthologies and collections such as Native Voices: Honoring Indigenous Poetry from North America (2019), Fire and Ink: An Anthology of Social Action Writing (2009), The Colors of Nature: Culture, Identity, and the Natural World (2011), Thinking Continental: Writing the Planet One Place at a Time (2017), Poetry of Presence: An Anthology of Mindfulness Poems (2017) and Reinventing the Enemy's Language (1997). Blaeser has performed her poetry at over 350 different venues around the globe, and has been the recipient of awards and fellowships from the Wisconsin Arts Board, the Center for 21st Century Studies, the D’Arcy McNickle Center for the History of the American Indian, and the Institute on Race and Ethnicity among others. She is an editorial board member for the “American Indian Lives” series of the University of Nebraska Press, for the “Native American Series” of Michigan State University Press, and for the Indigenous Studies Journal Transmotion.

Blaeser, who worked as a journalist before earning her Ph.D. at the University of Notre Dame is also an avid wildlife and nature photographer often exhibiting her photos, ekphrastic poetry, and a mixed-genre art form for which she invented the term “Picto-Poem.” She lives in the woods and wetlands of rural Lyons Township Wisconsin and spends part of each year at a water access cabin adjacent to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in northeastern Minnesota.

Read an Excerpt

Wellspring: Words from Water

A White Earth childhood water rich and money poor.
Vaporous being transformed in cycles—
the alluvial stories pulled from Minnesota lakes harvested like white fish, like manoomin,
like old prophecies of seed growing on water.
Legends of Anishinaabeg spirit beings:
cloud bearer Thunderbird who brings us rain,
winter windigo like Ice Woman, or Mishibizhii who roars with spit and hiss of rapids—
great underwater panther, you copper us to these tributaries of balance. Rills. A cosmology of nibi. We believe our bodies thirst. Our earth.
One element. Aniibiishaaboo. Tea brown wealth. Like maple sap. Amber. The liquid eye of moon.
Now she turns tide, and each wedded being gyrates to the sound, its river body curving.
We, women of ageless waters, endure;
like each flower drinks from night,
holds dew. Our bodies a libretto,
saturated, an aquifer—we speak words from ancient water.

Of Eons and Epics
We wake with arrowheads—
our hands clamped around dreams,
dreams of hummocky bodies glacial names tattooed on each blue-rivered forearm.
What does it mean to hunger for shards,
a glossary to story us?
I tell it this way:
the sculpting,
the whittle-form of earth—
say kettle with a hard k.
Something is always taken,
something left behind;
it becomes you—literally.
You tombolo, you esker.
We are all debris—
our story a remnant of what moved across us.
What bounteousness!
We are glacial terrain,
marked pathways—myth.
What does it mean for my fingers, eyes, tongue?
to brim with a telling,
the silk-voiced dream of one body moving against another?
Sometimes the story is simple:
the etched back of Turtle that holds us—
it asks only belief.
Earthdivers one and all—sleek water bodies surfacing,
emerge to sing on holy ground.
But the way they tell it we are land animals,
humanity a paradise of aloneness:
a solved mystery, a locked garden a departure—
that story the walking away.
The way they tell it the flood always recedes from impossible watery origins.
But who fixes the science of meaning?
The truth is:
awake and asleep we betray our small selves wander beyond borders—
is water bird a metaphor?
I tell it this way:
The diving for survival
(mahng, amik, nigig together with mink and Nanaboozho).
Their feathered and furred bodies.
Ours. Gathering tiny grains of copper—
sand and sky’s minstrel breath;
Noodin whirling from four directions,
until this:
small magic we call earth.
But feel the fire and flexing beneath us—
the rumble-voiced pulse of this planet,
the vibration of our tectonic bodies?
Remember, we too are still motion—
burning wet and storied,
mythic like Turtle Island.
Imagine with me metamorphic becoming,
each miraculous emergence:
tetrapod limbs from gelatinous tadpole bodies,
oceans and islands rising receding rising in their dance with volcanic force.
Our lives, too, servant to the alchemy to the carving gusts of wind and water,
time—and telling.
Sing me again the saga of sin and separation,
of humans and hierarchies;
I’ll sing you the ballad of glacial bodies of many creatures made of water and belief—
the one about transformations about eons and epics—
these sacred cycles and everyday survivals.
The truth is:
we amphibious, we minstrel-born wear the spiraling path of legends on each whorled fingertip.
Like the trace of time on the clay of earth—
the drumlin swarms, the conical hills;
we too rise new each day from sleep to storied lives—to archetypes and anthems,
to the spectacular castings of destiny.
Recite with me each rhapsody history or rumor—
our ancient epic inked now pigment on rock-face, carbon on parchment,
memory on skin.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Proem: Wellspring: Words from Water 2
Dreams of Water Bodies/ Nibii-wiiyawan Bawaadanan 4
Of Eons and Epics 5
Please withhold koans and questions 8
Slippage 9
Cadastre, Apostle Islands 11
Angles of Being 13
Talking Rock 14
Pica 15
Winter Transfigurations 16
After Taiwan 18
Caption 19
Words on Yearning 20
Of Fractals and Pink Flowering 23
This Stranger’s Beauty 25
Dreams of Water Bodies, Two 26
BWCA Haiku 28
What I Believe 29
A Litany of Other 30
What the Rain Remembers 32
Becoming Turtle 33
Tincture 34
Another Intimation 35
Endaso-Dagwaagin 36
Manoominike-giizis 38
A Subjectifixation Cento for Two Voices 40
Of Nalusachito and the Course of Rivers 42
Verse Drama One: Pagan 44
Verse Drama Two: Surveyor, 1849 45
Rattle 46
1850. Sandy Lake, Minnesota. 47
Mochi, Prisoner of War 49
Estate of Chief Black Kettle (1813-1868) 50
Sutra, in Umber 51
Summary Tabulations Descriptive of One Hundred and
Fifty Chippewa Indian Families on the White Earth
Reservation 52
Ancient Hunger 53
Captivity 54
On Climbing Petroglyphs 56
Veteran’s Day 57
Fire, After Fire 58
Bawaajige 59
Photosynthesis 61
Exit #135 62
Speaking, Like Old Desire 64
Fatima at the Bab el-Bahrain Souk 65
Reliquary 66
Regarding the Care of Homeless Children 68
The Ritual of Wishing Hands 70
Sting Like a Bee 72
When We Sing Of Might 73
The Solace of Forgotten Races 75
Again the Night 76
Recipe for Remembrance 77
That Buffalo Hair Fedora 78
Unlawful Assembly 81
The Smallest Shaft of Light 82
Ikwe-niimi: Dancing Resistance 84
This House of Words 85
Mooningwanekaaning-minis 86
“Because We Come From Everything” 87
Tribal Mound, Earth Sutra 89
Of the many ways to say: Please Stand 90
Poem for a Tattered Planet: If the Measure is Life 91
Dispersion: A Treatise 94
Eloquence of Earth 95
Prairie Thunder 97 Solidarity: A Cento 99
Sacred Stone Camp 101
Minobimaadizi 104
A Song for Giving Back 105
When Loving is the Yield 107
Voices in the Desert, Bahrain 2010 108
Before Pearl Square 109
Shiteet, the Smallest Pearl 110
Canyon on the Edge of Years 111
Senbzura, Held Together by Strings 112
Spirit Dogs 113
Bronze Lumen 116
These Small Turns of Memory 117
Winter Aurora 121
After Words
Envoi: Drum Song 124

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Copper Yearning is a moving collection from one of the most important indigenous writers and scholars of our time. In this new work, Kimberly Blaeser creates a palimpsest of 'broken geographies,' 'frayed histories,' 'sacred cycles,' 'clan relatives,' and 'everyday survivals.' The poems, like birch bark canoes, carry us across the past and the present, across the White Earth Reservation and Bahrain, across Standing Rock and refugee routes, across English and Anishinaabemowin, across sorrow and the 'blood passage of belonging.' Reading this book will inspire you to “open the medicine pouch / of your voice” and stand firm to protect the treasured earth and its ancient waters."—Craig Santos Perez

Customer Reviews